The Lives and Times of Nikola Tesla

Legends being what they are, it’s safe to suggest that Nikola Tesla’s profile of today, even if one doesn’t credit the ramifications of that legend, is much higher and more salutary than the man – or men, if one wants to add Marconi to the pile – who thoroughly eclipsed him in stature, rapture and success at the time: Thomas Edison. Tesla comes with mystery and aspiration attached, sparks the imagination, inspires movies, books, comics and brands of car, suggests great untold, or suppressed, discoveries and inventions, offers the lure of exotic and ennobling scientific endeavour in all its unrestricted,

It cannot act at all, so long as there is no threat.

Colossus: The Forbin Project (1970)   What was Dr Forbin (Eric Braeden) thinking? Talk about bending over backwards to give the AI what it wants. Colossus: The Forbin Project is sufficiently compelling that you rather excuse it all the conceptual blunders and goofs that ensure there’s absolutely no way to switch the supercomputer off, or countermand it, or mitigate its leverage (“Do what I say or get nuked”). It is also, in very 1970s fashion, a starkly bleak, unforgiving affair, something that does much to ensure it still packs a punch. Skynet decides to wipe humanity out, but Colossus, much

We’re dragging humanity to a higher plane.

Person of Interest (2011-16)   Jonathan Nolan seems habitual in taking a fertile, resonant SF premise and failing to capitalise on it. Which might explain why all 3 of his series so far have been prematurely cancelled (in the case of the most recent casualty, The Peripheral, that might be explained away by the strikes, but if Amazon had really wanted more of it, they’d have persevered until it as over). Person of Interest, like his subsequent Westworld, takes as its theme the threat and potential (in that order) that comes with AI; Nolan filters it through a case-of-the-week procedural

My life has been one glorious hunt.

The Most Dangerous Game (1932)   One of those movies more famous for its influence, if you choose to see it that way, and what it represents, than its qualities in and of itself. Which is something of a pruned-back affair, at RKO’s decree, filmed on sets that would inspire the imminent King Kong – Merian C Cooper shot Kong test footage during the production – and featuring its scream queen Fay Wray and several other actors (The Most Dangerous Game cost about a third of Kong’s price tag). The essential lure and fascination is that it posits – based

You’ve got a lot to learn, jungle man.

Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes (1984)   If there’s a lesson from late-70s to mid-80s Hollywood, it’s the danger of amping up fledgling “auteurs” beyond their stations, with very costly results. First there was the Oscar glory of Michael Cimino, who drove a terminal nail into New Hollywood with his The Deer Hunter follow-up Heaven’s Gate. Later, Roland Joffe would lose a bundle with the pictures he made after The Killing Fields, The Mission and Fatman and Little Boy. And then there’s the case of Hugh Hudson, an ex-adman like Sir Ridders and also (in relative

I am a citizen of the ocean.

Man from Atlantis Pilot (1977)   As far as I’m aware, the notion of aquatic Atlanteans is a strictly fictional – providing, of course, you credit the legend with any legitimacy to begin with – conceit. Can it be found prior to Marvel’s Submariner (created in 1939)? There are accounts of fish/humanoids, sure, such as the Amazonian creature that inspired Creature from the Black Lagoon. And then there are mythical mainstays of various traditions and cultures – mermaids and mermen, Adaro, Atargatis (transformed into a fish, but her head remained human), the Blue men of the Minch (they swim like

Atlantis mon amour

Most who have a passing familiarity with the legend of Atlantis can likely cite Plato as having mentioned it, Patrick Duffy as having been born there (which may or may not explain him resurfacing in a shower that time), and it being variously ascribed a number of locations – were it once real, natch – depending on the particular enthusiast/researcher’s bent (the Atlantic, the Med – including Crete, Santorini/Thera and Malta – , the Bahamas – including the Bermuda Triangle –, South America – owing to Mayan and Aztec cultures –, off Northern Europe – Doggerland – and Antarctica).  The

Lines of confluence, probable scales, all that shit.

Timecop (1994)   Should you be allowed to make a time-travel movie if you can’t be bothered to observe even the most basic diligence towards cause and effect – to temporal geography, if you like? It’s one thing for an accidental journey to mess up the mechanics, but when it’s in the name of a government agency, who should be au fait with such things and be taking due precautions, it just seems like laziness. Throwing Van Damme into the mix simply adds to that sense of the slipshod, meaning it’s only director Peter Hyams’ customary dependability that holds Timecop’s

Hypnotic illusions don’t tear people apart.

Forbidden Planet (1956)   Seminal sci-fi is how this is always announced: proto-Star Trek by way of the Bard. There’s certainly much to appreciate here, not least the inimitable Robby the Robot and the animated visualisation of the monster of the Id, when it eventually appears. But Forbidden Planet is also frequently languid and just that bit too relaxed, its “grownup” SF of people talking rather than scrapping to be balanced against the romance between Anne Francis and everyone’s favourite Police Squad representative, Leslie Nielsen. Given Nielsen’s rep for emphasising plankishness to humorous effect, its notable how well he does

Better move fast, kid. The end is near.

2012 (2009)   This is where the bigger-budget disaster-movie cycle reaches its zenith. Or nadir, depending on your take. After this, global destruction would largely be down to clashing superheroes. And after this, alleged 33rd-degree freemason Roland Emmerich’s star would be in the descendent, the “vanity” projects he had his eye on floundering along with the presumed safer ground of standard-issue blockbusters. 2012 might have been one such, were the example of End of Days and the Millennium taken as indicative, but it lashed together the disaster-movie formula – and the Emmerich disaster-movie formula at that – with gleefully undisguised